Minority Consultative Bodies in Kosovo: A Quest for Effective Emancipation or Elusive Participation?

Article excerpt

This paper examines the extent to which effective political participation can be achieved through minority consultative bodies, and what obstacles and shortcomings can potentially occur in practice. It explores the Kosovo case, where a variety of minority consultative bodies were established in recent years to ensure effective minority participation and representation at the highest decision-making levels. It will be argued that despite the prospects of the established legal and institutional framework, these bodies have fallen short in providing meaningful representation of minority interests and needs in Kosovo. This is largely affected by the intermeshed interests of elites among the majority and minority communities that prioritize their narrow interests to the expense of the developmental and emancipatory needs of marginalized minorities in Kosovo. Hence, higher commitment and cooperation between governmental authorities and minority representatives, together with adequate resources, are critical for ensuring effective minority participation in the public sphere.

Keywords: the right to effective participation, minority consultative bodies, Kosovo.

Accommodating the interests and rights of minorities has been one of the major challenges in Kosovo, before and after the declaration of independence in 2008. Indeed, international support for Kosovo's statehood is rooted in Kosovo's constitutional commitment and promise to respect and promote the highest standards of minority rights.1 The institutional framework of minority consultative bodies consists of a Communities Consultative Council, based in the Office of the President of Kosovo; the Committee on Rights and Interests of Communities, based in the Kosovo Assembly; and the Office for Community Affairs, established within the Office of the Prime Minister of Kosovo. Initiated by the international community, the establishment and functioning of minority consultative bodies in Kosovo is seen as an appropriate mechanism for ensuring that constitutional commitments on minority rights are effectively implemented through direct engagement with minority representatives in consultative, decision-making and coordination processes.

Theoretical debates and policy prescriptions suggest that beyond fuzzy constitutional commitments, minority consultative bodies could be a promising mechanism to ensure the effective political participation of minority groups. They are seen as a space in which minority political groups, civil society representatives and governmental bodies can interact, and where the views, concerns and interests of minorities can be effectively incorporated within the process of policy planning, implementation and evaluation (Weller, 2010). To explore how these theoretical prescriptions apply in practice we will examine case of Kosovo, where the international community has invested extensively in developing an ambitious institutional and policy framework for empowering minority communities. In particular, we will assess how these mechanisms work in practice, by analysing their performance and achievements two years after their establishment.

This is the first academic paper to explore the performance of these institutions in practice, and it will focus on the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian (further, RAE) communities, as the most vulnerable and non-dominant communities. After a short theoretical and legal discussion of the changing nature of minority rights, with a focus on the right to effective political participation, the paper will then briefly discuss the extensive legal and policy framework for minority participation before and after Kosovo's independence. After this, we will provide a critical assessment of the performance and achievements of these minority consultative bodies, which are part of the main political institutions in Kosovo. Their performance will be assessed against a set of conditions prescribed in the legal documents that established them, and the broader political criteria evident in academic and policy discussions. …